The autumn of 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is now being renovated after years of decay, pollution and vandalism.
It took lots of tears and fighting to bring down 155 kilometers of concrete. And it was more than just a wall for Germans. It was a physical embodiment of the iron curtain between the West and the Communist East.
On the day it fell, the celebrations in Berlin seemed like they would last forever.
Since the end of the Cold War, the Wall, which was once a great divide, has now become a source of inspiration for many.
Twenty years on, the once-odious barrier has been transformed into a treasured icon – one that sells well both in parts and as a whole. The wall’s remains are now officially an open air gallery called East Side, which has quickly become one off Germany’s top tourist attractions.
The Berlin Wall was constructed in the early 1960s. In 1989, the 155-kilometer wall dividing Berlin into two parts was all but demolished. Following the country’s reunification, the majority of the wall was destroyed. Just about three kilometers in total is still left.
The possibility of having something similar back home frightens many. But when it comes to the wall art, nobody seems to object. Many find it iconic, emotional and educational.
The city's authorities have decided to restore all the murals for November's anniversary celebrations, after the original paintings slowly disappeared behind a wall of graffiti.
East Side Gallery’s director Kani Alavi says he doesn’t mind tourists participating in the creative process along with the artists, but as long as they don’t stray from the original.
“It’s very important to cherish the wall as a living reminder, because up to now we have so many examples of such walls in other parts of the world – the ones between South and North Korea, Cyprus and Turkey, Palestine and Israel,” Alavi says.
Like 100-or-so other paintings, Soviet communist leader Leonid Brezhnev's ‘brotherly’ kiss with his East German counterpart Eric Honecker, featured on the longest-surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall, is now being revived from scratch by its original artist.
The creator of the historic off-the-wall kiss, Dmitry Vrubel says at first he was nervous about the task.
“It’s a real victory of art over politics. Parts of the wall have remained in several parts of the city, but people keep coming here. They come to look not at the wall, but rather at the pictures on it,” Vrubel told Ria Novosti News Agency.
According to Russian daily Gazeta, it took Vrubel a week to create his “Fraternal Kiss” back in 1989. Twenty years ago it may have been just a prank- now he has to recreate what's considered by many to be a masterpiece.
“Some guide said it’s a Russian kiss. It’s not – it’s a Communist kiss. For a communist there’s not a man or a woman. For a communist all people are the same and everyone loves everyone,” Vrubel told RT.
The Kiss is not his only work featured on the Wall – another one is called “Danke, Andrey Sakharov!” which is also said to be in need of restoration.
German designer Daniel Rodan has found his way to make history fashionable again. His latest leather collection was created in co-operation with the East Side Gallery artists. There are 20 dresses in honor of each year since the fall of the wall.
“The wall was ugly, the wall was bad, so they break everything down. So, just a small group of artists remember that it’s part of our history,” Rodan stresses.
Daniel remembers the events of November, 1989 as if they were yesterday. He says the moment the wall fell and Berlin was united was like a new child being born.
While the designer’s models were just two-year-olds when it happened, he makes sure they know about everything they missed. Since they wear the clothes, he says, they should be aware of what's behind them.
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